A person's inability to multi-task may result from the brain's predisposed mechanisms, BBC News reports.
When we work on two things simultaneously, each half of the brain focuses on the separate tasks, according to a French study published in the journal "Science." This may not only explain the difficulty of multi-tasking, but also individuals' tendencies to make irrational decisions when presented with multiple options.
"My view is that [irrational decisions are] critically related to this division of [labor] between the two hemispheres to keep track of two tasks or two options but not more," Dr. Etienne Koechlin, of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris and the study's lead author, told BBC. "Our result is likely to provide an explanation for why people are good in binary choice but not multiple choice."
French researchers used brain scans to analyze activity in the frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for impulse control, of 32 participants.
Researchers asked the volunteers to complete a letter-matching activity and when they completed one task at a time, one side of the frontal lobes lit up. When they completed two tasks simultaneously, the lobes divided the tasks between them. The primary task worked the left frontal lobe, while the secondary task corresponded to the right frontal lobe.
"You can cook and at the same time talk on the phone but you cannot really do a third task such as trying to read a newspaper," Koechlin told BBC. "If you have three or more tasks you lose track of one task."